Kim Sengupta: What now for mission built to McChrystal's orders?

Share
Related Topics

The
Rolling Stone article that led to the fall of General Stanley McChrystal was being described last night as the "longest suicide note in history". The question now is just how much damage it will do to the military campaign in Afghanistan which was designed and honed very much to the specification of the departed US commander.

The choice of David Petraeus to replace General McChrystal was a surprise but it may prove to be an inspired choice.

Although it became clear yesterday that General McChrystal would not survive he still appeared to retain the support of American and allied commanders in the war. While his fate was being decided in Washington, British, Canadian and French senior officers warned that removing him at such a crucial stage of the Afghan conflict would be damaging.

Slotting in General Petraeus sends the signal that President Obama remains fully committed to the Afghan mission. There will also be a degree of continuity, General Petraeus's job as head of US Central Command meant that he was in overall charge of the Afghan and Iraqi operations and familiar with the challenges. Furthermore, General McChrystal had worked for General Petraeus in Baghdad on the "surge" on which the current Afghan "surge" is loosely based.

The feeling of betrayal apparently felt by General McChrystal and his aides is now public knowledge thanks to the Rolling Stone article. But it was no surprise to those who had followed the twists and turns of the Afghan war. The fiercely loyal followers of the General were vociferous in their criticism of those within the US administration who attempted to block his vision of how the tide of insurgency could be turned.

This remained largely unreported because most of the comments were off the record and because there was a feeling among journalists that General McChrystal's openness should not result in every racy comment appearing in print.

Vice-President Joe Biden, who had opposed General McChrystal's request for tens of thousands of reinforcements, was described by McChrystal supporters as "the Donald Rumsfeld of Afghanistan". It was an allusion to the disastrous refusal of George Bush's vice-president to send adequate forces to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, one of the main reasons for the country sliding into a state of semi-anarchy.

The tensions sometimes did become public – such as General McChrystal's remarks on the fringes of a Nato meeting that the Biden plan would create a lawless "Chaostan".

There was little attempt to hide the anger in the McChrystal camp when it emerged that while the military commander was pressing for extra troops, his civilian counterpart, Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador, had been sending secret memorandums to the White House arguing against that move. A group of journalists, including myself, were invited to the headquarters of Isaf ( International Security Assistance Force) in Kabul to be told by a senior officer: "He ambushed us... the guy went behind our backs."

Mr Eikenberry, a former military officer himself, had been dismayed by the way the previous US commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, had been pushed aside to make way for General McChrystal. Mr Eikenberry, among others, felt that General McKiernan had done nothing to deserve the indignity of becoming the first US commander to be relieved of his post since Douglas MacArthur in the Korean War. Yesterday, he, Mr Biden and General McKiernan may well have felt a sense of schadenfreude. Where the sacking leaves the Afghan mission is a different matter, with General McChrystal now the third US commander to be fired during this war.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The final instalment of our WW1 series

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Simon Usborne: The more you watch pro cycling, the more you understand its social complexity

Simon Usborne
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice